Easy Beef Bourguignon

Note: This recipe is an homage to “Bob’s Short Ribs Bourguignon”, by one of my favorite chefs from the Outer Banks.

A few years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with a chef during a group cooking class.  He cooked in a way that was very similar to my own, using his hands/eyes as a way of measuring ingredients and his intuition as a way of creating a dish that was both delicious and flavorful.  Having a trained chef share his take on a traditional, classic recipe was a gift beyond compare and I’ll always be grateful to him for opening my own eyes to cooking this way.  This recipe used some basics from Bob’s recipe and added my own twist, allowing me to use my own intuition (The Force) to create a new dish.

I was at a wine/food festival recently and was asked if I had a Beef Bourguignon recipe on my blog.  Since I hadn’t “formally” cooked and blogged about this recipe, I decided to remedy that problem as quickly as possible.  EasyBeefBourguignon

I started with a package of beef that I found on sale at my local grocery store. NOTE: I try and pick up packages of meat anytime they go on sale, that I can use in various recipes, and keep them in my freezer until needed.  This helps keep my costs down and I can “shop” in my freezer for dinner inspirations most any day.  I sliced the beef into 1-2″ chunks and, using my favorite large stock pot, browned them in a bit of olive oil after dusting them with some flour, salt, and pepper.  Since I had so much beef, I did this step in two stages, removing the first half of the beef once it was browned and repeating the process.  

Once all the beef was crispy, I placed it all back into the pot and added the following ingredients:  1 sliced onion, 4 diced bacon slices, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, 1 beef bouillon packet (I like G. Washington Brown), a few globs of ketchup, and covered everything with a lovely red wine (think James River Cellars Monitor).  I stirred everything to combine it nicely, popped the lid on the pot, and put the entire dish into a 300 degree oven to cook for awhile.  I think it cooked for about 2 hours, but I was really waiting for the entire recipe to reduce and mesh together well.  You could easily reduce the heat on the stove top, pop the lid on, and cook it for the two hours, but I prefer to use the oven when I can for this sort of meal.

Once the wine had reduced and the sauce was thick and rich, I added half a bag of frozen peas to bump up the color factor on the meal.  The final touches involved adding a few dashes of worchestershire sauce and a small bit of butter to gloss the sauce.  It looked delicious!

As we got closer to dinner time, I cooked some egg noodles and sliced some crusty bread to complete the meal.  The final product was deep, dark, and rich… a perfect meal for a cold, snowy evening, even if it *was* March.

I hope you’ll try making your own version of this wonderful recipe.  Using short ribs (when on sale) is a great alternative to a piece of pot roast, but you can use most any meat that will handle this sort of long, slow cooking process.  Changing up the vegetables by using carrots, pearl onions, or any other favorite vegetable is a great way to add nutrition and tailor the recipe to your family’s preferences.

Remember, cooking is about sharing your love with the ones you love.  Enjoy!

Crock Pot Recipe: Pork Roast

This recipe was so ridiculously easy that I’m almost embarrassed to post it… almost.  I was on the schedule to work earlier this week and decided to through a few things in my crock pot to see how dinner would turn out.  The meal was filling and flavorful, just what I needed after a busy day, but it came together so simply that I just had to share it with you.

CrockpotPork

I found (literally… my husband defrosted our freezer over the weekend) a lovely 2-3 pound pork loin that needed to be used and decided to be a bit creative in what I was making that evening.  To the bottom of the crock pot, I layered 2 sliced onions, 1 sliced apple, 1/2 cup James River Cellars Rad Red, and 1/2 cup James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay.  I un-bagged the pork loin, placed it on top of the vegetables, seasoned it with garlic salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.  I realized that I wouldn’t have time to cook and make mashed potatoes, so I popped 4 small potatoes in the same pot and cooked everything on low for 6-8 hours.  By the time I got home, the house smelled amazing!

Adding the finishing touches on dinner was fairly simple.  I pulled the potatoes out and mashed them in a bowl.  I added some of the liquid (along with the cooked veggies) from the pot to the potato mixture to smooth everything out, then added a touch of margarine (or butter), salt, and pepper before serving.  I sliced the pork, which honestly was falling apart at this point, and served dinner in under 15 minutes after my arrival home.  It was simple, tasty, and satisfying… three things that I look for when trying to come up with a work-night recipe.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe or a variation thereof… making dinner doesn’t have to be a huge production… it can be as easy as thinking ahead.  Enjoy!

“Using The Force” for the first time

I was talking with a friend yesterday about what to make for dinner, when we stumbled upon the idea of having him “use The Force” to create a meal for him and his girlfriend.  We talked about a few recipes, contemplated different degrees of difficulty, and came up with the plan to use my Chicken Prosciutto Roll recipe.  He didn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time on dinner, so we discussed ways he could “shortcut” the recipe and tailor it to their tastes.  I was so excited for him that I had to write a quick blog post to share this with you all.

AMUsingTheForce

Here’s his final product:

Doesn’t it look terrific?  THIS is what I mean when I say, if you’re planning to use one of my recipes,  that you should alter the original to fit what your family likes best, using the flavors and spices that you most enjoy.  He made his own version of a Chicken Prosciutto Roll and it turned out wonderfully.  He *did* use chicken breasts, Bourcin Cheese, and James River Cellars Gewurztraminer white wine, but swapped out ham for the prosciutto, since that’s what he had on hand.  More importantly than simply following the recipe, he used what he had at his disposal and took the time to prepare a meal that he and his girlfriend would enjoy.

My friend, AM, did a fabulous job of tailoring a basic recipe to make it his own.  I hope you’ll consider trying this same sort of thing in your own home.  It’s not hard to make dinner… it just takes a little thought and the ability to let your efforts shine as your own.

If you want me to blog about it and share your steps, just send me a message and take a few pics of the beginning/middle/end of your efforts so you can send them to me.  I’d be more than happy to help as you create dinners for your friends and loved ones… after all, it’s just food!

Enjoy the process…

Recipe: No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is one that my husband loves and it comes to me, courtesy of my wonderful Mother-in-Law.  I have played with this recipe a bit, but try and make it as close to the original as possible, since it’s my husband’s favorite.  Everyone should have a favorite food that doesn’t get “edited” or “upgraded”, so this is the one recipe that I don’t change.  HOWEVER, if you are interested in making a few edits, this is a simple change you can make to include wine in your dessert.  NOTE: Lest my husband reads this post and worries that this year’s pie has wine… it doesn’t.  It *has* in the past, but it doesn’t this year.  NoBakePumpkinPie

Mom’s No-Bake Pumpkin Pie:

  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use the Fat-free version)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope Knox brand geletin
  • 2 Tablespoons water **Here’s your substitution opportunity
  • 16 oz can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  1. Blend the sweetened condensed milk, egg, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand one minute.  Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves.
  3. Blend in milk mixture
  4. Stir over how heat until thickened, about 7-9 minutes.  Blend in pumpkin and mix well to incorporate.
  5. Pour into pie shell and chill for several hours.
  6. Cut and serve with Cool Whip.

NOTE:  I substituted James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay for the water last year.  The only major difference was that the gelatin/wine mixture became “like glue” for a bit until the heat allowed it to loosen and blend together.  I enjoyed the hint of Chardonnay in the background of the pumpkin pie but will use that for the baked pumpkin pie recipes that I use instead of using it for this recipe.   

 

Recipe: Raspberry Wine Taffy

What’s a girl to do when her college roommate gives her four bottles of good Raspberry Syrup? Why, create a recipe using the syrup and WINE, of course!

Armed with the fore-mentioned syrup, I decided to play in the kitchen today. I didn’t want to waste the syrup, so I thought I’d make a simple reduction of the syrup and red wine that would drizzle nicely over desserts. While my end product didn’t exactly meet my expectations, it definitely wasn’t a total loss… I ended up with Raspberry Wine Candies!

I decided to start small… I poured 1/2 cup raspberry syrup and 1 cup red wine into a small saute’ pan and allowed this mixture to simmer for awhile. Note: I used Boordy Vineyard’s Chambourcin Merlot for this recipe, but I could have easily used James River Cellars’ Meritage… I just had an extra bottle of the BoRaspberryWineTaffyordy wine and wanted to use it up. I allowed this syrup/wine mixture to simmer for about 30-45 minutes – I wasn’t paying close attention to the clock and I was simply cooking the mixture until it reduced significantly and started to look “thick”.

Once the mixture had cooked down to the look of a heavy syrup, I added a dash of salt and a teaspoon of margarine. I stirred these two additions into the mixture and allowed it to simmer a little longer.

At this point, I probably should have removed it from the stove and used it as a drizzle for pound cake or ice cream. Instead, I continued to cook it until it was even thicker and looked as if a spoon could leave a trail down the center of the pan. I removed the confection from the stove and poured it into the Pyrex measuring cup (as seen in photo) to find that the entire mixture had reduced from 1 1/2 cups of liquid to a scant 1/2 cup of confection. It tasted lovely, but I had no idea what to do with it… so I popped it into the fridge.

An hour in the fridge allowed this recipe to thicken so much that I could manhandle a small spoonful onto a piece of waxed paper and eventually eat it as a soft taffy… hence the recipe’s name. I’ve never intentionally made taffy before, but this is what I thought of when I tasted it.

Next time, I’ll stop cooking this mixture earlier and allow it to cool so it can be used as a flavorful topping for ice cream or pound cake (as I mentioned before)… but maybe not. It’s kind of fun to create something totally unexpected!

Here’s to the unexpected sweetness of life… may we all create more of it to share with others!

Recipe: Easy Chicken Divan

I was recently tasked with using our new Cabernet Franc Blanc wine (James River Cellars’ 2012 Montpelier) in a recipe and this fabulously easy recipe was the result.  It uses both Montpelier wine AND Monterey  Jack cheese in a sauce that has it’s beginnings in my childhood, so for me, this was a win-win recipe.  I hope you find it that way as well!

EasyChickenDivan

I started with a leftover chicken carcass that I pulled from the freezer.  Typically, I’ll purchase a roasted chicken from our local grocery store and cut out the breast meat to use in a meal early in the week.  Once the white meat is gone, I like to bag up the chicken remains and pop it in the freezer for just such an occasion.  While the original recipe called for a can of cream of mushroom soup, I wanted to make my version a little healthier, so I put the frozen chicken into a large stock pot with about 2 inches of water and set it to a low simmer until the chicken was soft and easy to pick off the bone.  Most of what was left on the bone was dark meat, which suited me just fine.  I transferred all the meat into a large casserole dish and tossed the bones in the trash.   I quickly cooked a bag of broccoli florets in the microwave and layered them on top of the chicken in the dish.  Now to make the sauce that would pull everything together.

The remaining liquid in the pot had a deep chicken broth smell and taste, so that was the beginning of my sauce.  I added one pat of butter and a few spoons full of flour and whisked everything together until the flour had been thoroughly cooked and all lumps were gone.   I slowly introduced the Montpelier wine (you could certainly use a white wine, but a lightly dry rose’ would handle the flavors a bit better, in my opinion) and added a handful of Monterey Jack cheese, whisking again until the cheese melted nicely and the wine was thoroughly incorporated.  I also added a few spoons of Miracle Whip Lite and a generous amount of curry powder.  NOTE: I like to sweet/tangy addition of Miracle Whip in this recipe, so if you really want to use traditional mayonnaise, I would suggest adding a touch of sugar.  Once your sauce is smooth, creamy, and tasty (you HAVE to taste-test the sauce to make sure your flavors are combined well), pour the sauce over the chicken/broccoli in your casserole dish.

Using the same stock pot that you used to warm your chicken (and then make your sauce) add some butter, olive oil, salt, crushed garlic, and pepper.  Allow the seasonings to blend over medium heat and then toss in a few hands full of bread crumbs.  Toast the bread crumbs until they have soaked up the seasoned butter/oil mixture and become a bit crispy.  Layer them on top of your casserole dish and plan to bake your final dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

You can absolutely plan to serve this with a simple green salad and some bread, but we love it just by itself.  The flavors combined nicely and everything tasted clean and fresh.  While it reminded me of my Aunt Treva’s Chicken Divan, it seemed a little healthier to me… maybe part of that is mental, but I do know that I was using fresh ingredients so I did feel better about how I made this version.

Try it with your own favorite childhood recipe… maybe you’ll come up with an updated recipe of your own!

Recipe: Stephanie’s French Toast Bites with Blueberry Wine Sauce

I have to start this recipe by saying that I love breakfast foods.  Eggs Benedict… pancakes… french toast… hash browns… sausage… waffles… bacon… you get the picture.  I could have breakfast-for-dinner at least once a week (although my husband much prefers to limit breakfast foods to “breakfast/brunch time”).  Because of this love affair I have with breakfast, I enjoy creating different sorts of recipes that showcase some of my favorite options, especially when I can incorporate wine into the mix.  The best of both worlds, right?

This recipe was created for my dear friend, Stephanie, who’s having a difficult time eating full-size servings of food these days.  To tempt her into eating breakfast one day, I came up with the idea of having small crouton-size bites of french toast that she could eat with her fingers or dip into a fruity sauce.  It was a big success, so I thought I would share this special recipe with everyone here.  I’ve named this recipe in her honor because without her, I wouldn’t have thought to make this delicious breakfast dish in such a unique manner.

I started by cutting up a few slices of whole wheat bread into bite-sized cubes.  Using my memory, I blended an egg (you can absolutely use egg substitute if you prefer), some milk (I like using almond milk if that’s on hand), some white wine (I used Vidal Blanc last time but use whatever you may have in your fridge… just decrease the amount of sugar if you’re using a sweeter wine), a sprinkling of sugar (as desired), a touch of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon (to taste).  Using a wire whisk, beat the egg mixture until it’s just becoming frothy.  I wanted something that would taste light, so I opted to whip the mixture until it was light and airy.  I then tossed the bread cubes in the egg mixture until all the cubes were soaked with the egg-y-yumminess.  When you’re ready to cook the toast bites, melt a pat of butter (and a touch of olive oil if you’d like) and transferred the toast bites to a very warm saute pan to cook.  Note: don’t crowd the pan, so feel free to do this in two sections if necessary.  

Stephanie'sFrenchToastBites

In the meantime, using a small saute pan (or sauce pan), melt a pat of butter and add a handful of blueberries,  Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand or prefer.  We had quarts of blueberries in the fridge, so they were the natural choice when I was creating the sauce to go along with these toast bites.  As the berries begin to warm and pop open, add some red wine (I went around the pan twice with a lovely Pinot Noir… again, because that’s what was in the fridge.  If I’d had a different red wine available, I might have changed to that one instead.  Use what you have and what you enjoy!) sprinkle some sugar to sweeten the sauce, and I decided to add a dash of cinnamon, to mirror the taste from the french toast bites themselves.  Allow the sauce to cook until it reduces and thickens.  If it gets too thick, add a little more wine… if it’s not thick enough, feel free to add a little more sugar.  This is a Use The Force sort of recipe… make it your own!

You’ll notice that there are also some bites of sausage on the serving plate in the photo – we had turkey sausage that needed to be used (and it was a good source of protein), so I browned the sausage until it was crispy and delicious.  It’s not a prerequisite… just another flavor to temp my dear friend into eating more than she had planned.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you need to expand your horizons when it comes to feeding your loved ones.  If someone isn’t feeling particularly well, feel free to play with your recipe to tempt them into eating something tasty and good for them.  It’s not about who’s doing the cooking or even about how they’re cooking… it’s about the love that is conveyed by the simple act of feeding people.

As you cook, may you enjoy the challenge and turn it into an expression of love.  That’s what it’s all about…